Business camp encourages entrepreneurship, gives back to the community

By Gus Bode

Tom Heller says he has ideas but doesn’t quite know how to get them off the ground.

Heller, a senior from Springfield studying mechanical engineering, said he applied to the Operation Bootstrap entrepreneurship program searching for experience in starting his own business — the type not found in the classroom.

“I’ve always had a lot of concepts and ideas,” Heller said. “This program would give me the confidence and real-life skills I need to start my own business… I can learn things I won’t learn as an engineering student.”


SIUC will host its first student entrepreneurship competition, the Collegiate Camp CEO Saluki Operation Bootstrap, Aug. 15 to 19, that will award a total of $40,000 to students and help create their own business.

“The program initiative sends a terrific message for students to foster and apply creativity,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said. “Students will also have the opportunity start a localized business-student inspired business that will benefit the community.”

The program, hosted by SIUC Entrepreneurship and Business Development department, is an extensive week-long training session with a business-based curriculum. Selected participants will have a week to learn necessary business management skills and then have an opportunity to pitch their own business concepts to local business owners. The winner will receive $10,000 to start their own business in the Delta Region.

Robyn Russell, assistant director of the university’s small business development center at, said the program, which is funded by the Delta Regional Authority, was not only created to help develop student entrepreneurship but also to help set up businesses in the suffering economy.

Russell said winners are required to have their business located in one of the 16 counties under the Delta Region Authority. He said the grant condition is an effort on the Delta Regional Authority’s part to help economic development in the region.

“There has been a history of slow economic growth in these regions,” he said.

Russell said the final competition will be held August 19 where a winner will be chosen. She said the 1st place  winner will receive $10,000, the 2nd place winner will receive $ 6,500, and nine other contestants will receive $3,000.


“The money will be used for business supplies, service workers and anything the student could possibly need to head a successful business,” Russell said.